With the recent bad weather and general flooding, many people are finding they have problems with water in their fuel when, or just after they have filled up with fuel and are suffering the inconvenience and financial implications such as lost work time and damage to vehicles, so can anything be done about this issue? YES.
Here is a guide to deal with this issue if you suffer from such problems:
1/ Always get a receipt for any fuel purchases as this verifies the date, quantity of fuel purchased, and from which site it was purchased, and is valuable evidence.
2/ Always ensure there are no other issues with the vehicle as far as practically possible, then remove any fuel filter and empty its contents into a clear and clean glass jar for examination and seal the jar with a lid and tape it up to totally seal it.
3/ Keep your fuel sample in a warm place for a couple of hours, by this time you will see it begin to seperate and the water will fall to the bottom and the fuel will sit on top of the water; leave for 6-8 hours to let it seperate totally and measure the height of the water and the height of the fuel and take several pictures at one hour intervals with the ruler clearly visible against the clear jar for comparison.
4/ All fuel will have some water in it, but this should only be trace amounts of water and barely detectable to the naked eye in a glass jar. If you have a quantity of water in your fuel of more than 1% after an initial test you may need to take a reasonable sample and plenty of photographs for evidencial purposes.
5/ Contact the fuel retailer you filled up at and tell them they have a problem with water in their fuel and so do you after you filled up at their site and ask what they intend doing about it and what they are doing about any costs you incur to your vehicle, and any damage the fuel may have caused. Do not offer them anything information wise about taking a sample at this stage, or the fact you have even taken a sample, if they have had several complaints they may just deal with it and reimburse you, they may also refuse to reimburse you if you have filled up early in the morning or late at night and have had no other reported problems with water in their fuel at this point.
If they offer to reimburse you then fine, but get this in writing only and signed by the site manager/manageress, and never accept an E-mail confirming they will reimburse you as an E-mail IS NOT LEGALLY BINDING so a written letter or a fax will suffice as both these are legally binding. It is not uncommon for petrol retailers to accept liability by E-mail and then refuse to pay because an E-mail is not legally binding in law. As an additional precaution you should E-mail the fuel company if it is one of the major chains such as Shell, BP, Total, etc, at their head office and notify them of the problem and print out a copy of the E-mail you send and any subsequent response they send you for evidential purposes as many of these sites are franchises and the fuel company are responsible for the hardware such as storage tanks, pipework, and fuel pumps.
If they refuse to reimburse you, you now contact your local authorities Trading Standards Department immediately and inform them of the problem, the fuel retailer is in breach of multiple sections of the Supply of Goods and Services Act, Sale of Goods Act, and Weights and Measures Act to name three, so they have the authority to intervent and act immediately to visit the site and take samples from all their fuel pumps. Some Trading Standards Departments may do this, others may not, and remember they may have already had several reports about this fuel retailer and water in their fuel which gives your case additional evidence from unrelated and impartial sources.
From here you will need to take plenty of photographs and if you have the facility on your camera to have the date and time on your pictures then use it, or switch it on, and take plenty of pictures of the next processes.
6/ Take a sample of fuel of at least 1 litre, or slightly more from the bottom of your fuel tank as this is where the water will settle, if you have a 4X4 it will almost certainly have a drain plug on the fuel tank so undo it just enough to let fuel drain into a clean receptacle, if you don't have a drain plug then find the fuel outlet pipe and remove it and replace with a long section of pipe and syphon a sample of fuel out as the fuel pick up pipe draws from the bottom of the tank.
AT THIS POINT YOU NEED TO HAVE SEVERAL PHOTOGRAPHS FOR EVIDENCE, TAKE YOUR FIRST PHOTOGRAPH WITH THE VEHICLE AND NUMBER PLATE VISIBLE SO THE VEHICLE IS CLEARLY IDENTIFIED BY ITS NUMBER PLATE AND ALSO THE MAKE, MODEL, AND COLOUR. THEN TAKE MULTIPLE PHOTOGRAPHS OF EACH STAGE OF THE FUEL SYPHONING WITH PART OF THE VEHICLE IN SHOT SO THERE IS NO DISPUTE ABOUT WHICH VEHICLE THE SAMPLE WAS DRAWN FROM. TAKE A WIDE ANGLE SHOT WITH PART OF THE VEHICLE IN AND A SECOND CLOSE UP SHOT IMMEDIATELY AFTER SO THE TIME WILL SHOW THE CLOSE UP SHOT IS TAKES SECONDS AFTER THE WIDE ANGLE SHOT SO THERE'S NO DISPUTES.
7/ Take your sample and filter it through a clean cloth into a clean glass with at least 1 litre capacity, or several clean smaller glass jars and photograph this with plenty of pictures to avoid any dispute, seal the jars by replacing the lids and taping them up to prevent any evaporation of the fuel if it is petrol.
8/ Take a picture of your fuel gauge with the ignition switched on so you have an approximate guide to how much fuel is in your vehicle, from this Trading Standards can deduct the amount of fuel already in your vehicle and deduct the quantity of fuel you put in your vehicle from your receipt and work out how much water was in your purchased fuel for evidence if they bring a prosecution.
9/ Contact your local Trading Standards again and tell them you have a sample of fuel and ask what they would like you to do with it; copy all paperwork and your fuel receipt and any letters you have sent and received, and print out all your E-mails for them to retain as evidence, from here they will certainly intervene and act, you can then claim for your losses and damages and you have all the evidence.
Remember the golden rules: copy everything, photograph everything, and print out two copies of everything.